Palestinian Prisoners Receive Heroes’ Welcome


Related: Palestine’s Prisoners Release – in pictures


A newly released Palestinian prisoner (L) is greeted by a relative during a welcoming ceremony in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (Photo: REUTERS – Abed Omar Qusini)

  Tuesday, October 18, 2011 | Al Akhbar

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians flocked to the streets of Gaza city and Ramallah in the West Bank Tuesday to celebrate the release of 477 prisoners as part of the first phase of the prisoner swap struck between the Zionist state and Hamas. The celebrations witnessed emotional scenes of reunion between prisoners and their families. Feelings of jubilation were mixed with sorrow at the continued presence of thousands of Palestinians in Israeli jails.

Another 550 Palestinian prisoners are due to be released two months from now as part of the deal that will see the release of a total of 1027 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

The homecoming festivities brought together officials from Hamas and the Palestinian authority and talk of reconciliation between the two rival groups.

Azhar Abu Jawad, 30, waited anxiously in Gaza to catch a glimpse of her brother who had been sentenced to life in 1992. She said she last saw him eight years ago, before Israel banned visits by Gazans. “My happiness is indescribable,” she said. “We’ll get him a bride and everything. I just spoke to him. He’s so happy. This is a reminder, God doesn’t forget anyone.”

For his part, the released Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit told Egyptian television that he hoped “this deal will promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians.” Asked if his experience in captivity will prompt him to call for the release of the remaining Palestinian prisoners, he said, “I would be very happy if they were released, so they can return to their homes and families.”

The homecoming festivities brought together officials from Hamas and the Palestinian authority, seen as signs of possible reconciliation between the two groups.

Hamas had reason to celebrate. A majority of the 477 prisoners freed Tuesday had been serving life terms and their release violated a long-standing Israeli pledge not to free those with “blood on their hands.” Shalit was captured more than five years ago by a joint operation of Hamas and other Gaza-based Palestinian factions in a daring operation on border of Gaza.

More than 300 of the prisoners arrived in Gaza, while the rest were sent to the West Bank where they were received by mass rallies and head of the Palestinian Authority (PA) Mahmoud Abbas. In his speech, Abbas revealed for the first time that the PA had struck a similar release of Palestinian prisoners with the previous Israeli government under Ehud Olmert.

“I am revealing to you … that there is an agreement between us and the Israeli government on another batch (of releases) similar to this batch after it finishes,” Abbas said. His comments marked the first time he referred to an additional prisoner release, and there was no immediate Israeli comment.

The celebrations were marred by clashes that erupted between about 200 young Palestinians waiting to catch a glimpse of the released prisoners at a West Bank checkpoint. Israeli troops fired tear gas and Palestinians threw stones for about half an hour. Some of the young men climbed atop the apartheid wall near the checkpoint and draped it with flags of Hamas and Abbas’ Fatah movement.

(al-Akhabr, AP, AFP, UPI, Reuters)


Timeline of Prisoner Swaps between Israel and Arabs since 1982

1983 – Israel frees 4,600 Arab detainees in return for six Israeli soldiers held in Lebanon.

June 1984 – Israel swaps 291 Syrians captured in battle and the remains of 72 Syrians for six Israelis and five bodies, only two of which are positively identified as Israelis. Israel also frees 20 Arab civilians held for spying and security offences.

May 1985 – Israel releases 1,150 Arab prisoners in exchange for three Israel soldiers held by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command. The deal took almost nine months to negotiate.

June-July 1985 – Israel frees 331 Lebanese detainees. Lebanese leaders say their freedom was guaranteed in exchange for the return of 39 foreign passengers hijacked in an American TWA airliner to Beirut. Israel denies a connection.

July 1996 – Hezbullah and Israel carry out a German-brokered swap when the bodies of 123 guerrillas are returned to Lebanon in exchange for the remains of two Israeli soldiers.
– Hizbollah also frees 17 fighters of the Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army (SLA) militia, which in turn frees 45 Lebanese captives.

January 2004 – Israel releases 436 Palestinian and other Arab prisoners in a deal with Hizbollah for the return of Elhanan Tannenbaum, an Israeli businessman, and three dead Israeli soldiers captured on a border patrol in 2000.

July 2008 – In return for releasing five men, Israel recovered from Hezbullah the bodies of two of its soldiers, captured in a 2006 cross-border raid that triggered a 34-day war with the Iranian-backed group.

Oct. 2011 – Israel agreed a deal with Hamas that around 1,027 prisoners would be freed in exchange for Israeli soldier and tank crewman, Gilad Shalit, who has been held since 2006.

(Reuters)


The Prisoners in Numbers

273 Out of 450 Prisoners are serving life sentences.
2 Female Prisoners out of 27, are serving life sentences.
36 Life sentence charges on Walid Injas the longest sentence carried out.
11 Years is the shortest prison sentence, given out to two Palestinians from Gaza.
36 Is the number of years served by Mohamad Abou Khousa from Gaza. The longest serving Prisoner.
34 Prisoners being exiled.
160 Are being relocated from the West Bank to Gaza.
110 Prisoners of the relocated will be allowed to return home within 5 to 20 years.
55 Will never be allowed to return to the West Bank.
2 Prisoners were freed under previous deals and re-imprisoned.
55 Prisoners are from Hebron.
6 Prisoners will be freed , who were denied release in previous trades.
14 Prisoners are from Occupied Jerusalem.
1 Syrian prisoner from the Golan heights, which is a first in trades.
131 Will be allowed to return home in the West Bank but their freedom of movement will be curtailed.
>500 The number of Israelis killed in operations by the released Prisoners.

(al-Akhbar)

Source & more at Al Akhbar Website


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